Will the Trump administration scrap the Iran nuclear deal, or is the basic framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action here to stay? On Thursday, the deputies of the National Security Council will hold their first meeting to discuss the Trump administration’s review of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. This comes two days after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the United States certified that Tehran had been compliant with the deal through April 18. President Trump, said Tillerson, “has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review” of the deal to “evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
According to one Trump administration official, acknowledging Iran’s compliance with the narrow provisions of the deal is not the same as denying the regime could be acting badly. White House press secretary Sean Spicer, when asked Wednesday if the president was concerned Iran could be cheating, said, “that’s why he’s asking for this review. I think that there’s—if he didn’t, if he thought that everything was fine, he would have allowed this to move forward. I think he’s doing the prudent thing by asking for a review of the current deal.”
The certification, which Tillerson made official in a letter to House speaker Paul Ryan Tuesday, was reportedly the product of some intense negotiations between the State Department and the White House (specifically, the National Security Council). Some at the NSC wanted tougher language from the government about Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and, as Eli Lake reported, for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. But the majority of those involved at the White House, along with Tillerson and the State Department, preferred to tone down the language.
The Administration is Divided and Unsure On the Iran Deal
That debate reveals divergent viewpoints within the administration about how exactly to handle the Iran deal, which was forged by the Obama administration and European partners in an effort to curb Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Republicans and even some Democrats opposed the deal’s parameters, which critics say required few or vague concessions from Iran while providing the regime with significant relief from economic sanctions—relief that could hasten an Iranian nuclear program, rather than stop it.
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump blasted the deal and promised he would renegotiate it when elected. But multiple figures within the Trump administration, from Tillerson to United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley have said since the transition that the deal deserves a review before the United States takes any action. There are some working in the administration who view the deal itself as fundamentally flawed and who prefer pulling out as soon as possible. Other say the problem could be solved by enforcing the deal more rigorously than the Obama administration had so that the Iranian are the first to break away from the agreement. Still others—chiefly career officials at the State Department—are mostly uninterested in pushing for any significant changes to the deal.
Bottom line? There’s currently no plan from the Trump administration about how to proceed. Without a deputy secretary of state and under secretary of state for international security (both politically appointed positions) to shape and enforce the administration’s viewpoint within a hostile State Department, the Iran deal is one area where the permanent administrative state is likely to win out.
Trump Orders Review of H1-B Visas
After President Donald Trump spoke to workers in Wisconsin on Tuesday, he signed an executive order calling on the government to fully review its H-1B visa program for temporary workers and to prioritize American firms when working with contractors.
Claiming that various international trade deals have harmed America and that his supporters “voted to end the theft of American prosperity,” the president noted that his new policy would “aggressively promote and use American-made goods and … ensure that American labor is hired to do the job.”